Marketing: Building brand awareness through great brand photography

I used to think a brand was just a snazzy logo with an attractive colour scheme and font.  But it is so much more.  Think of a famous product.  Why is it well known?  What makes it memorable?  What makes it stand apart from all the rest?  What has the company done to build brand awareness so successfully?  We have all seen the taste tests on TV.  Consumer Brand A verses Consumer Brand B and C.  Everyone says they prefer the taste of Brand A but then they do a blind tasting and they actually can’t tell the difference between any of them.  Humanity is a fickle beast and the trust we place in a product’s quality is often just based on familiarity with its visual identity.      

How do you create your brand identity?

Think about your business. Who are you? What’s your history? What’s your ethos? What do you sell?  What makes your product or service unique? Who and where are your customers?  What customer needs do you or your business fulfil?  By answering these questions, it will help you develop a brand identity that expresses what your business is, resonates with your target audience and makes you stand-out from the crowd.  You can then go on to build brand awareness.

The importance of images in building brand awareness

As consumers we are drawn to images far more than text.  An image speaks a thousand words.  An emotive image on the front page of a tabloid will often tell a story before the headline and help sell newspapers.  A great image sells ideas, creates desire, inspires, sparks curiosity, engages customers and persuades them to buy.    In this digital age of fast paced consumerism and snap purchasing decisions, digital media, particularly social platforms, are a valuable tool for building brand awareness.  Digital media can be a cost effective method of targeting specific audiences, anywhere in the world, at any time of day, on any day of the week and as frequently as you like.  But whilst digital algorithms require text to operate effectively, we humans are far more simplistic.  The earliest humanity relied on images for communication long before any form of alphabet and written word was created.  Words rarely make us stop and think but an eye-catching image has the power to draw us in instantly before the accompanying words hit home.  Think about your own use of digital media.  What makes you stop scrolling?  What makes you click that button?  Is it a long paragraph of well written text or an attractive image?  Is it because you have seen the same image repeatedly for the last few weeks and it now holds a comforting familiarity?  We are all similar and what draws your attention likely works for the next person or at least people of like mind.

Why brand photography is a worthy investment

Think about your brand identity.  You have written down what your brand is but how can you convey that brand in an image?  Are you a whizz on Adobe Illustrator?  Are you a talented artist?  No I’m not either.   Photography is the most straightforward way to convey your brand.  We are all photographers these days.  All of our phones have in-built cameras of reasonable quality.  Taking, storing and sharing photographs is so easy but it does require some thought and expertise.  A hasty selfie on a Saturday night is possibly not how you want your brand to be associated.  Nor is a badly focused, poorly lit, product shot.    

If you have any kind of digital platform; a website, Instagram, facebook, pinterest etc, then you need some good quality images to convey your brand identity.  Do-it-yourself photography has its place but if you really want your brand to be taken seriously you need professional brand photography.   So my advice is to invest in great photography.  Hire an experienced brand photographer.  Someone whose style you admire, which resonates with you and sits comfortably with your brand.     

Don’t just dive in and take a lot of random photographs but have a pre-meeting.  Discuss what images you want and need.  Go back to your brand identity and construct images that best convey your brand.  Think about the location.  Where do people use your product or services?  At home?  At work? On the beach?  Up a mountain?  Do you need people in the photograph?  Will they be models wearing or using your products?  Will it be you at work making the product or delivering your service?  Will it just be the products themselves?  Where are you going to use these images?  Take advice from your photographer.  They are experienced in developing brand images.  Look at their portfolio.  See what your competitors are doing.   

This is not a one off investment.  You need to keep your images up-to-date.  We all evolve and what was relevant two years ago may not be today.  Regularly refresh your portfolio as your brand develops. 

Stock photography can be helpful but creating a strong portfolio of images personal to your business is invaluable for developing your brand awareness.   By creating brand images unique to your business you can create consistency and with frequent use can help imbed your business in your customers minds.

Thank you Steph Stevens* for encouraging me to think about my brand and arming me with some amazing photography to help me build my brand awareness.  I have never felt very comfortable in front of the lens but somehow you made me feel less awkward, put me at ease and helped make the experience a pleasure and not a pain! 

I chose Exeter and Exmouth for my brand shoot locations as I am based in Devon. I am mobile so work wherever I can find a space for my laptop, a phone signal, a bit of peace and quiet and a good coffee (NB. not always at home!). I quite often find myself at the beach with the dog. A walk along the shore and a breath of fresh sea air is a great mind booster if I’m ever struggling. Steph gave great advice. The best light for outdoor photography is often at the start or end of the day. The beach shots were taken at sunset which also happened to be when the tide was coming in so kept us on our toes! I got my hair done (can you tell?!), considered my outfit choice (smart but not too formal), took a load of props (magazines and books, note books, business cards, blankets etc) most of which we didn’t use but I like to be prepared! Also the obligatory celebratory gin and tonic, in a glass over lime and ice, as I like to do things properly wherever I am!!

If you are based in or around Devon and are looking for a great brand photographer then get in touch with Steph. 

My name is Charlotte and I am a venue consultant based in Devon.  I have been in the business of organising events and managing wedding and events venues for over 20 years.  This has given me a tremendous breadth of experience in customer relations, sales, marketing, PR, business development, risk management, change management, event planning and coordination, budget management and team leadership.  I help venue owners get the most out of their business.  With a reputation for consistently exceeding expectations and a passion for delivering exceptional events and customer service, I can help your business survive and flourish beyond 2020.

For further information, please get in touch.

*All photography featured here is by Stephanie Stevens Photography

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Two Gold Wedding Rings on a dictionary definition of marriage

Wedding Planning and proposed changes to the Marriage Laws – ‘Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law’

On 3rd September 2020, the Law Commission released a consultation paper: ‘Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law’*.  This consultation is an opportunity for all of us to share our experiences of getting married, our insights into the system as it stands and have our say on the proposed changes to the Marriage Act 1949.  The Marriage Laws entrenched in British tradition have not fundamentally changed since the 18th century and in my opinion do not serve the needs of couples wishing to marry in the 21st century.   

This consultation comes at an important time when couples are faced with draconian restrictions on marriage ceremonies and wedding receptions following the outbreak of Covid 19 in the UK.  Restrictions which may not be lifted for many more months.  The financial and emotional impact on couples, wedding venues and wedding suppliers has been overwhelming.  Yearly incomes entirely wiped out, widespread redundancies, deposits lost on wedding bookings, little to no compensation, years of hard work and dedication lost, dreams dashed and no clear guidance on when we can hope to start again.  Ineligible for furlough or any other government funding, myself and others have had to fall back on personal savings, take on debt, seek other jobs or look for alternative revenue streams.  We have been decimated.  Worrying how we will pay our bills, if our businesses will survive beyond 2020 and receiving abuse from upset couples who just want to get married as they intended.  Whilst the Marriage Laws may not have directly affected this outcome, they certainly haven’t helped.

What will the proposed changes to the Marriage Laws mean for couples wanting to get married?

For many couples and venues, the restrictions in the number of guests who can attend a wedding ceremony and the type of wedding reception you can hold have made weddings financially and reasonably unviable.  If you are planning any kind of legal marriage ceremony in England or Wales, the law states that you have to have an officiant.  Currently, this means that 12 guests can attend your marriage ceremony (two of them must be official witnesses).  It must also be in a licensed venue or church.  Venue hire fees can run into £’000s which, when you look at the cost on a price per head basis, now makes the fee economically unviable for many.  Added to that, most venues are designed to accommodate 100 + guests which means a party of 15 easily gets lost.    

A change to the Marriage Laws could mean that couples could choose to get married at home, in a local restaurant, their pub, a village hall, outside on a beach or on a mountain top.  This would mean greater flexibility for the couple and allow couples the freedom to make the location of their wedding more personal to them.  If you are restricted to 15 then why should couples have to spend a fortune on a licensed wedding venue when home might be a more ideal option. 

Their officiant could even be a family member or friend.  There is likely to be training and a registration process to ensure that the officiant is appropriate for the job, able to uphold the law and take legal responsibility.  Essentially the licence will be with the officiant which means as long as you have a licensed official to oversee the ceremony and ensure all the legalities are adhered to you could get married wherever you like.

Importantly, the changes also propose to extend the period of validity for the certificate for the marriage to proceed.  This certificate, issued by the Registrars, is currently only valid for 12 months.  My local district council charges £70 per couple for the application.  If the certificate runs out, the couple have to re-apply at another cost of £70.  Most couples this year will have had to postpone their weddings which means they are likely to have had to re-apply for a certificate allowing them to get married.  If the restrictions continue into 2021, many couples may face further re-applications.  I was unable to find out if this refusal to offer extensions to the certificate was a dictate from central government or our local government but either way this is grossly unfair.    

Many weddings take many years to plan.  Financial pressures, work, ill health and venue availability can all extend the period between engagement and marriage.  Planning weddings can be stressful.  There is lots to think about, prepare for and plan.  By removing the time limit on the certificates, this aspect of planning can become much more straightforward and give couples the flexibility to marry when they are ready.

How could the proposed changes to the Marriage Laws affect wedding venues?

Many licensed wedding venues may be fearful of the proposed changes to the marriage laws however I think this is needless.  Most couples, who dream of a large wedding with all their close friends and family, will struggle to accommodate everyone at home or in non-designated wedding venues.  Marquees are an option if you have a big enough garden but these are often more expensive to hire than a wedding venue.  There will therefore still be a need for independent wedding venues.

In fact I think that these proposed changes stand to benefit wedding venues across the UK.  No longer will you be beholden to the local Registrars office having a officiant available on the same date as your wedding venue.  Anyone will be able to train and register as an officiant provided they are capable of undertaking the legal obligations. This means you or a member of your team could train as an officiant and preside over the wedding ceremony yourself. This would add value to your couples or offer you an additional revenue stream.  Wedding venues will also not have to worry about maintaining their civil ceremony licence nor the added expense that accompanies the renewal. 

How could the proposed changes to Wedding Laws affect churches?

My husband and I married in a church.  Neither of us have a particular faith but both of us were brought up in church-going families.  The church had no particular significance for us but I had lived in the Parish at one point in my life and it was near the reception venue we had chosen.  We were attracted by the tradition (family and societal) and by the style of formality offered.  It was a very pretty church and could fit all our guests.  The vicar was lovely, relaxed and hospitable.  He had a modern outlook and allowed us some flexibility.  We could choose readings and hymns, we could have non-religious readings and music.  It was the marriage ceremony I had imagined growing-up.

Had the marriage laws been different then we may have had other thoughts.  My husband loves aeroplanes, most of his family have worked for airlines at one time or another.  I wouldn’t have put it past him to suggest getting married inside the Concorde at Fleet!

The proposed changes to the marriage laws may affect churches.  The changes propose to allow religious readings and hymns to be sung at civil ceremonies which will allow much more flexibility for non-religious venues.  However the USP of churches in providing a venue reflecting the religious faith and culture of the couple will still remain, as will the connection to home and community and the historic tradition.

For me these proposed changes to the Marriage Laws in England and Wales are about giving the couples the choice and flexibility to choose how and where they get married.  If you value your freedom then please do share your views on this consultation paper.  It is a meaty document but you have until 3rd December 2020 to share your thoughts.  You can start it and then save the document to return when you have another few minutes to spare.  It is really important that we have our say. Changes to these laws will undoubtedly affect how we get married and the wedding industry for many years to come.  Whatever your relationship to the wedding industry, age, marriage status, sex, sexual orientation, faith, colour, ethnicity or origin, you have a right to have your say.    

*Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law

At a glance: the Law Commissions consultation on Getting Married

Getting Married: A Summary of the Weddings Law Consultation Paper

If you would like any further help or advice on planning your wedding or if you are concerned about how the proposed changes to the Wedding Laws may affect you or your wedding venue then please do get in touch.

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